Sunday, July 04, 2010

Story of a Song: Tarrus Riley's 'She's Royal'

'She's Royal' written as hurricane Emily approached

She's Royal, Tarrus Riley's paean to the inherent majesty of women which catapulted him from good singer to the A list of Jamaican recording and performing talent, was not written for a specific person.

And while Riley was working on the song as he waited out the impending Hurricane Emily at a friend's house, he was guided away from a chorus - and, most likely, the title, she's got it.
"The Rasta man them say, 'she's got what? We want the woman queen up and look up. We want them be positive'," Riley told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Me say, 'Alright, she's royal'," he said, and the chorus of the song-in-the-making was duly adjusted, flowing from a first verse that hinges on a respectful encounter between genders:
"No I never been someone shy
Until I seen your eyes
Still I had to try, yeah
Oh yes,
let me get my words right and then approach you
Woman I'll treat you like a man is suppose to
You'll never have to cry, no
I know everyone can relate to
when they find that special someone
And she's royal, yeah so royal
And, I want her in my life."
He already had the CD with the rhythm and was listening to it using a radio in Bamboo Lane, Duhaney Pen, St Thomas. "That was where I was sheltering from the storm that was to come," Riley said. "My yard couldn't manage the storm. Me did live in a board house." He had also already worked out a melody, but had no lyrics.
Positive feedback
But after working on the track that night, by the next morning She's Royal had been written.
There was immediate, positive feedback from very close by. "A little girl next door a cotch her ears and she wake up next morning and say, 'is the wickedes' tune!'. we all call her 'royal' before the song release," he said. She was 16 years old then and She's Royal was released on Riley's breakthrough 2006 Parables album.
She's Royal was recorded at Grafton Studios in Vineyard Town, St Andrew, and while Riley says, "I knew it was a wicked tune", he was not looking at it as such a hit. However, people in the studio felt that it was a special song - both of them, in fact, as Riley also recorded Something Strong that day.
One thing he was absolutely sure about, though, was "me did really like the message. She's royal, she's a queen. Me like that. Is not a song like 'girl I love you, you are number one, is how she strong, she's majestic, how she carry herself".
And as Riley sings the lines "the way she move to her own beat/she has the qualities of a queen, she's a queen," he contemplates, "If you really check the context of the song, it no have nothing to do with no individual."
And it seems that every woman adapts She's Royal as a personal anthem, making the song individual to her as Riley sings:
"What a natural beauty
No need no make-up to be a cutie
She's a queen, so supreme
And when they ask what a good woman's made of
She's not afraid and ashamed of who she is."
One of the first times Riley can remember performing She's Royal in Jamaica was at a staging of the Bling Dawg Summer Jam in Portland. "That was the first time, me sey. da tune ya big. Me haffi sing it over 100 time," he recalled. However, She's Royal became popular in the rest of the Caribbean first, so the earliest concert performances were outside Jamaica.
Then there was the Sumfest performance where Beenie Man, who was in the crowd, came up on stage and demanded a 'pull-up 'of the song - along with a 'hail' for his wife D'Angel.
He got it.- The Sunday Gleaner